Category Archives: science

License agreement as literature

George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm (August, 1945) has 29,966 words.

Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 (October, 1953) has 46,118 words.

Apple’s  “Apple Developer Program License Agreement” (June, 2017) has 42,993 words.

In terms of plot, setting, and character, the license agreement is no match for either of the former two works. But all three could be classed as dystopian.

Pirate Party: success at last!

Pirates are thriving, and it may be a good thing.

On December 2, Iceland’s President mandated that Pirate Party Member of Parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir form a government. In the October 2016 general election, the Pirate Party came in third, but the two top vote-getting parties, the Independence Party and the Left-Green Movement, failed to build a coalition large enough to run the country. It is now time for the Pirates!

Yes, Iceland has a Pirate Party. As the Pirate Party website notes, it is patterned after the Swedish Pirate Party.

The UK established a Pirate Party in 2009, again patterned after the Swedish party. Founded in Manchester, it espouses civil liberties, privacy, direct democracy, and other very sensible things, constrained only by the somewhat strange name. It has never managed to get anyone elected to the UK parliament, but a quick read of the pamphlet distributed in Manchester for the 2015 election demonstrates a very workable set of policies:

What is the Pirate Party? "We believe that being a pirate means you are independently minded and independently minded politicians are what we need right now. If you believe most politicians are crooks, then maybe it's time to try the Pirate Party. Think different, vote different."
What is the Pirate Party? “We believe that being a pirate means you are independently minded and independently minded politicians are what we need right now. If you believe most politicians are crooks, then maybe it’s time to try the Pirate Party. Think different, vote different.”
Platform of the Pirate Party: end mass surveillance, respect privacy, basic living income for all, openness and transparency in government, free health care, broadband for all, education as a lifelong right.
Platform of the Pirate Party: end mass surveillance, respect privacy, basic living income for all, openness and transparency in government, free health care, broadband for all, education as a lifelong right.

Given the state of recent political rhetoric in the UK and the US, consider the Pirate Codex. It lays out a simple set of principles that, despite being political, are remarkably non-partisan.

Out of order: coming soon!

This is allegedly a check-in kiosk, allowing you to get a personal, human touch from a machine and not one of those impersonal people. Unfortunately, it would not let you check in.

Several things are of interest:

  • While laser printers abound in this particular clinic, and white paper is readily apparent, the message taped to the front of the screen is on yellow paper, and written in both ink and either lipstick or crayon.
  • The hand-written message, written by two different writers, claims that it is both “Coming Soon!” and “THIS IS OUT OF ORDER Don’t Use,” suggesting that coming soon the kiosk would be out of order.
  • Or maybe that should be reversed, and that it is currently out of order, and something else — order? — will soon be coming.
  • The nameplate at the bottom says the kiosk was made by Vecna Medical, and their registered slogan is “Better Technology. Better World.” Better technology than human receptionists? Than hand-written signs? And are we talking about this particular world, or some other world?
Out of order, coming soon. Or possibly Better Technology. Better World, because the world is better handled with hand-written signs.
Out of order, coming soon. Or possibly Better Technology. Better World, because the world is better handled with hand-written signs.

One more question: why is the kiosk turned on if it is not working?

Humane treatment of vermin

This rather large sign asks for humane treatment of roaches and rodents, selling technology that allegedly annoys the vermin.

"Chase out roaches and rodents with cruelty-free pest repellers." In Spanish and English.
“Chase out roaches and rodents with cruelty-free pest repellers.” In Spanish and English.

Yes, “las cucarachas” means “cockroaches” and “roedores” means “rodents.” Hate to say this, but most humans just want them gone, and treating them humanely is not a major concern. Away, all pests!

Visit to NSA

The National Security Agency (NSA) has a large campus on Fort Meade, Maryland, protected by fences, barbed wire, police dogs, guards, and maybe a dragon or two. It is not visitor friendly.

But right outside of the campus is the National Cryptologic Museum,  an old motel once used by visitors for housing guests. The motel is no longer a motel, but a rather casually laid out museum, sprawling through hallways and odd spaces, filled with artifacts on the art of sending, receiving, and stealing secret messages.

This formerly super-secret agency (nicknamed “No Such Agency,” as even the name was a secret) recently displayed a sign in the entrance claiming it was a Pokémon Go stop, which is a major step forward into the world of publicity.

The National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade started advertising itself as a Pokemon Go "Pokéstop" shortly after the Pokemon Go craze started. You could hunt for Pokemon and learn about secret messages at the same time.
The National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade started advertising itself as a Pokémon Go “Pokéstop” shortly after the Pokémon Go craze started. You could hunt for Pokémon and learn about secret messages at the same time.

Right inside, and probably to the great surprise of the British Museum, is the Rosetta Stone, one of the best examples of coding from the ancient world,

The Rosetta Stone, often thought to be housed at the British Museum in London, but really located outside the gift shop of the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, MD. Unlike that one in London, this one is easier to photograph and touch.
The Rosetta Stone, often thought to be housed at the British Museum in London, but really located outside the gift shop of the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, MD. Unlike that one in London, this one is easier to photograph and touch.

The museum houses artifacts that may not so obviously be associated with cryptology, such as a hunk of wreckage from Gary Powers’ U-2 surveillance aircraft, shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The Soviets fired fourteen missiles at the high-flying  U-2, finally hitting it with an S-75 Dvina, specially designed for the attempt. The Soviets also accidentally shot down one of their own MiG-19 fighters, sent up in an attempt to intercept the U-2.

The wreckage of the U-2 fell almost 14 miles before hitting the ground. A piece of that wreckage was presented to the US by Russia in 1994.

A piece of the wreckage from Gary Powers' U-2 surveillance aircraft, shot down by the Soviets in 1960 and presented to the US by the Russian government in 1994.
A piece of the wreckage from Gary Powers’ U-2 surveillance aircraft, shot down by the Soviets in 1960 and presented to the US by the Russian government in 1994.

You can check out a earlier blog entry for more photos and information about the museum, including the famed Enigma coding machine.